Notes from the Obstacle Course
Dr. Michael Peckitt
On Monday 15th August 2016, Satoshi Uematsu was rearrested by the Kanagawa police. According to sources, the suspect Uematsu had already admitted to killing 19 people on July 26th, and had given himself up. According to The Japan Times, Uematsu:
“[W]as arrested the same day after turning himself in at a local police station and sent to prosecutors on the morning of July 27th. Under Japan’s criminal justice system, his initial arrest was for allegedly breaking into the facility and fatally stabbing a 19-year-old woman.”
The allowed period of detention for the initial arrest was due to expire on Monday 15th August, so the Kanagawa Prefectural police sought another warrant. However, the warrant issued was only for nine of nineteen that was previously reported as allegedly killed by Uematsu. The nine victims were all women, and, at the time of publishing this, Uematsu has not been charged with the murder of the other ten. As The Japan News reported:
“Sagamihara, Kanagawa Pref., Aug. 15 – The Kanagawa prefectural police department served a fresh arrest warrant to a man, 26, on Monday for allegedly murdering nine out of the 19 people killed in a high-profile stabbing rampage at a care home for people with intellectual disabilities last month.
According to sources in the police, the suspect, Satoshi Uematsu, has admitted to the charges. All 19 victims, aged between 19-70, were residents at the facility, Tsukui Yamayuri-en, in the city of Sagamihara in the eastern Japan prefecture.
Uematsu, a former worker at the care home, is suspected of murdering the nine, all women, around 2 a.m. on July 26 (5 p.m. on July 25 GMT) by stabbing or cutting them in the neck or the back with a knife he carried with him. The victims were aged between 26 and 70.”
It is reasonable to wonder why Uematsu was only rearrested for the murder of the nine women and not the nineteen people in total? Why was he not also rearrested all 19 murders and for the assault on the 27 who survived the attack? One possible reason for this is that it is simply a quirk of police procedure in Japan, and specifically that most convictions are based on confession. As Jake Adelstein explains police practices in Japan:
“Japan’s conviction rate based on confession is around 99 percent. In Japan it is routine for suspects to be held in police detention without habeas corpus for up to 23 days, to be interrogated by professionals and subjected to all manner of stressful situations…The problem is that most guilty convictions in Japan rely on the confession ― since judges always conclude that no one would confess to a crime they didn’t commit, therefore a confession must be valid. If confessions vanish, the conviction rate will plummet.”
However, the only problem with this as an explanation is that it was reported that Uematsu has already confessed, after giving himself up to the police in the early hours of the Tuesday 26th July. As The Japan Times reported:
“Uematsu told investigators that he ‘tied up’ the staffers and made them hand him over keys to the parts of the building where the residents lived. The 19 victims were all found in the residential areas, which are divided into eight sectors that have self-locking doors. Uematsu was arrested Tuesday after turning himself in. He was handed to prosecutors Wednesday morning and will face murder charges.”
As a mere blogger, I have no access to the police and cannot ask questions of them. Maybe there is indeed a perfectly reasonable explanation as to why Uematsu is not charged with the murder of all the 19 he allegedly killed and 27 he allegedly injured, but instead only for nine murders. I suppose it is not inconceivable that there is a lack of forensic evidence. However, we will not know the truth of the matter unless a journalist asks the police investigating the crime to explain their rationale behind arresting Uematsu only for murdering nine of the victims, given the reluctance of the police to even name the victims in view of their being disabled, I am not holding my breath for any answers to be forthcoming.
Dr. Michael Gillan Peckitt is an academic who lives in Nada-Ku, Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan. He runs the Japan and disability related website ‘The Limping Philosopher’ (https://thelimpingphilosopher.wordpress.com) and you can find him on Twitter @Peckitt. Check out his ebooks on Amazon.